By Jeff Knox
The media, anti-rights groups, and politicians are engaging in a full-court press against the SHARE Act, focusing particularly on the inclusion of the Hearing Protection Act, which was added to the sportsmen’s bill in its latest iteration. As usual, the hype and distortion are running high, with idiotic claims that passage of the bill would “make it easy for felons and domestic abusers to buy gun silencers without a background check,” as Bloomberg-funded stated in press releases and social media postings.
We at The Firearms Coalition would be fine with that, as a matter of fact, we much prefer the SHUSH Act, which would totally deregulate silencers. They are after all, non-firing accessories, not guns, and if a criminal really wanted one, they are ridiculously easy to make. But the Hearing Protection Act simply shifts silencers from being treated like machine guns, to treating them like regular guns. What that means for criminals, is that a suppressor would be considered the same as a gun under the law, requiring a 4473 and a background check to purchase one from a dealer. Felons and anyone ever convicted of a crime of domestic violence would still be prohibited from purchasing or possessing them, just as they are prohibited from purchasing and possessing guns and ammunition.
The SHARE Act, which is an acronym for Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement, is an omnibus bill containing wide-ranging provisions of interest to shooters, hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationists. It contains a number of reforms that are long overdue, and has been pushed by the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus since 2013, with various provisions added or amended through the years. The latest version was delayed by the assassination attempt on Republicans at a baseball practice in Northern Virginia, but was finally filed on September 1, and has moved quickly since then. It was marked up in the House natural Resources Committee in mid-September and moved out of that committee with a favorable report the next day, at which time it was referred to the full House.
Barring some shenanigans from the Republican leadership, the bill will be voted on within the next couple of weeks, and sent to the Senate – where it will almost certainly languish and eventually die, just as it did in the 113th and 114th Congresses – unless we can force a vote.
The trick is getting the leadership to bring the bill to the floor. I suspect that Rep. Duncan (R-SC) pulled a bit of a fast one when he attached the HPA and some other pro-rights legislation to the SHARE Act, but it would be difficult for Speaker Ryan (R-WI) to block a vote now. Unfortunately getting action in the Senate will be more difficult. We’ll need champions to push the bill out of committee, and onto the floor, and the first big obstacle will be Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY). For some reason McConnell doesn’t seem to want to vote on gun bills, or help his members keep their election promises. He doesn’t seem to understand that the gun issue is a consistent winner for Republicans, and ducking or opposing gun votes always loses.
Harry Reid was a master of this game. While he would allow his members to cross party lines on gun bills if it would help their reelection chances, he would only do so if he was sure he had the votes to kill the bills. A great example was the vote on national reciprocity in 2009. Mark Pryor (D-AR) initially followed orders to vote against the bill, but after two Republicans, Lugar (R-IN) and Voinovich (R-OH) voted against it, Pryor sought, and was granted permission from Reid to change his vote to “Yea.” Reid himself voted “Yea” on that one, leaving the measure to fail by just two votes, with the blame for that resting squarely on Lugar and Voinovich.
Chuck Schumer is much less amenable to gun rights than Reid ever was, and Schumer runs a tighter ship, but he’s also a very pragmatic politician. He’ll most certainly filibuster the SHARE Act, and he’ll insist that enough of his members toe the line to ensure the bill doesn’t get through. He’ll also try to make quiet side-deals with squishy Republicans to con them into voting with the Democrats.
Our job is to make sure that Republicans and Democrats alike understand that failure to vote right on this bill – including in the lead-up procedural votes – will result in their unemployment, as happened with Lugar and Voinovich.
Conservative voters are really fed up with Republicans not keeping promises. Dragging their feet on pro-rights legislation like the SHARE Act will make many of them vulnerable in ’18. If Republicans let them down again, GunVoters aren’t likely to vote Democrat in large numbers but, they are likely to not bother showing up at all, and that could be the difference between a stronger Republican majority, or Chuck Shumer becoming Majority Leader.
Now is the time to be hammering your senators about the SHARE Act. They need to hear loud and clear that you want the bill brought to the floor and voted on, whether the leadership thinks it can pass or not. In a year like this, pushing for record votes can yield surprising results, but even if the SHARE Act goes down in flames in the Senate, having record votes is much more useful than having the bill simply die in committee.
Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Talk to the staff of your representative and both of your senators and tell them you want record votes on the SHARE Act. Then call their local offices and tell those staffers the same thing. Call Mitch McConnell’s office too, then call back every day until they take the votes. The Bloomies and Brady Bunch are pushing hard against it with assistance from the media. We have to be louder and more persistent. Call today.